Craig Gaulzetti is a Boston-based designer and builder of custom-built racing bicycles. His first prototypes were made out of carbon fiber, but he found that the composite material limited the angles and dimensions he could use. Then he started using aluminium, and he has never looked back.
“I switched to aluminium because it really opened up the possibility to further customize and tweak the bikes to the needs of my athletes,” he says. “With aluminium I have the option to create an infinite number of designs.”
Gaulzetti took up cycling after his parents moved the family from his native Massachusetts to Belgium when he was 13 years old. At school in Belgium he joined a bicycle club and then tried his hand at professional racing until he realized he was not going to be the next Eddy Merckx, the Belgian four-time Tour de France winner. While attending university back in the United States, he got a job in a local bicycle shop, and stayed there for 13 years, even after completing a master’s degree in English at Harvard University. From his rooftop terrace overlooking Boston Harbor, with jet planes from Logan International Airport passing overhead every few minutes, Gaulzetti recounts his growing involvement with high-end bicycle design.
“I got very invested in the bike industry and getting people onto very nice road bikes, doing fittings and frame design and working with different builders throughout the world,” he says. “Eventually, I started my bike company because no one was selling the bike I wanted to ride.”
Right from the start, he knew he wanted to concentrate on building specialist sports bicycles, not mass-market commodities. “From the outset my bike was never meant to be a retail product,” he says. “It wasn’t going to be a bike for everyone. It wasn’t for transportation. I just wanted to build the best racing bicycle that I could.”
All of Gaulzetti’s bicycles are custom-made for individual users. “No bicycle of mine exists without someone asking me for one,” he says. “And aluminium allows me to build custom bikes that are made to order for my racers.”
The new aluminium alloys that he works with also enable Gaulzetti to make bikes with exceptional ride quality, he says. “My clients are always telling me that they have never owned a more comfortable bike.”
Gaulzetti has sold about 250 bicycles since he started building them in 2007. He designs them himself, then works with a variety of craftspeople – machine shops, tubing suppliers, welders, CNC operators – to manufacture them.
“It really depends on who can work with the materials that I want to work with,” he says. “The newer aluminium tube set that I just designed requires a complex and difficult heat treatment cycle. So I had to search out someone who could do this. With the newer tube set I’m able to build a bike that’s a little bit lighter and a little bit stronger.”
Gaulzetti learned how to manufacture high-end racing bikes by working with the material suppliers. “I don’t have a background in material science, but I’m intellectually curious,” he says. “And in order to improve the bikes I was building I had to explore the materials that would allow me to best do that.
“I’m hoping to work with a company like Sapa on some of the friction stir welding technologies that are coming into being with aluminium right now. That should lead to some really big leaps forward in what bikes can do and how strong and light and responsive they can be built.”
Text Michael Miller
Photo Joel Laino